On the way back from the hospital, Aaron picked up that the front wheel bearings on the right side needed to be done.. as soon as possible. So we got back to the caravan park and Alan recommended a mechanic in the next town over. So off we went, and were so lucky to be able to put the car in straight away - we figured it must have been bad when the mechanic came back from the test drive and drove straight into the workshop... hhhmm. Az spotted an old '48 Chev in the workshop, and of course we were then stuck there for another half an hour talking about the restoration of it (insert small yawn here.. hehe). The mechanic kindly drove us back to the caravan park and said it should be ready the next morning, around tea time (I'm so obsessed with food, that I immediately thought he was meaning by dinner time the next night .. dirrrr Kesti!). We had a pretty lazy afternoon - Az had beers with the permanent residents and the owner - having a chat well into dinner time .. I've learnt to just eat without him, cause he's such a social butterfly, he won't come home for hours!
I have started jogging/walking again (yay!!!!), so the next morning I had gone for a job/walk to the beach, thinking that Az wouldn't get up until about 8am.. So I got back in about 2 hours and he's up and ready to start the day. As I was stretching, he turns to me and says, do you want to walk to get the car!! Well, I nearly fell over... but had to take the opportunity with two hands, as he NEVER wants to exercise. I did think to myself that the mechanics is a fair way away .. by a fair way, I mean a LONG way.. but hey, who was I to bring that up :) So after breakfast, we got the backpack ready and started out on our journey.. by the end of the road, Az turns to me and says, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.. I had to laugh! We were only 20 minutes into the walk and the mechanic calls, saying it's all ready to be picked up and asked if we wanted him to pick us up. Az, the avid walker, says to him, 'nah mate, we're all good, we'll be there soon anyway' ... ummmm, we weren't even half way there!! So another hour later, and after a killer of a hill to finish, we made it to the mechanic, dripping in sweat and just glad to be out of the sun. It was near 30 degrees, and VERY sunny. I've never been so happy to be driving the Troopy - needless to say the air-con was turned on full ball as soon as we got in.
That afternoon, after a quick dip in the pool, we decided to pack up and leave the next morning. What a mission - it took us a few hours to pack up. It's amazing how much stuff you unpack when you're staying somewhere for more than a few nights! Just as we hooked up the van, I remembered we were going to fill the car up before we hooked up the van, so I didn't have to do it once we were travelling.. Ooops.
The next morning (Wednesday 11th January), we got up nice and early, ready for the big day of driving the van on the open roads. I managed to get the van out of the park by myself (well, with Az's guidance of course). Backing the van is so much harder than he makes it look!
The van, nearly all packed up
So, I felt pretty good once we got on the highway, and I even got up to 90km/hr in some parts.. yep, I was movin'!! While I was much more confident, we had the next challenge of filling the car up with the van on... deep breaths, deep breaths! We turned off the highway, found a service station and just as I pulled in (without hitting anything.. thank you very much), we realised that the Diesel wasn't where we'd pulled up.. yep, obviously the concentration was on not hitting anything, rather than looking for the correct Diesel pump. We looked around for the right pump, and it was right there, 2m from the entry door to the Service Station, right up against the wall.. seriously, what a stupid place for a petrol pump!! So, lesson 2 in backing up the van.. lucky it was early and there wasn't any traffic waiting to come in for petrol! I managed to get out the back, where there was a huge turning area for trucks and a random parking lot for the motel at the back - but there was no way I could get the van and car where it needed to be... especially as the petrol pump was on the wrong side to our car. After a bit of swearing and frustration, we just unhitched the van (smack bang in the middle of the parking area.. hehe), and then I backed up the truck and filled up. As I got out, I realised the Petrol Station Attendant was there waiting for us so he could fill up the car... slightly embarrassed I got out and said the first thing to come to my head, 'what a stupid place to put a petrol pump' .. hhhmm, should have probably taken a bit of time to think about something else to say! So we had hitched up and were ready to go again - highway, here we come!
On this trip there were a few sketchy challenges that I had to overcome in order to get on with the journey... after the gas station challenge, came the skinny bridge challenge. There is a steel bridge in Macksville that is so skinny that, while it is two way, you find yourself holding your breath when you cross, and slightly sucking your tummy in - wishing it would make the truck narrower. When we did the dry run, the bridge had been super busy and there were trucks coming the other way - it's one of those drives that you just want to close your eyes on and hope you make it out the other side. As you can imagine, when it came time to cross with the caravan, I had been visualising the bridge as empty and as we came up to it, we only passed one car on the way over - yay!!!! Challenge 2 = done! The bridges after this were a piece of cake (well compared to that one anyway).
We made it to Port Macquarie by about 10am - I was killin' it!! As we were making great time, we decided to go a little West from Port Macquarie and go to Timbertown in Wauchope. Az has talked about Timbertown quite a bit, so we thought it would be a good place to check out.. like most things though, it was much better in his memory than in real life. We spent a few hours checking out the old timber machinery and looking at the old displays. Not somewhere we would probably go back to, especially at the $20 p/person entry, but nice to see once.
On the platform, waiting for the Steam train
The steam driven saw mill
I don't think this is going to be a problem, except for Spiderman
The sign reads, "WARNING Stand or walk only upon lines of nails or screws in THIS direction"
The Fire Station memrobilia
One of the Horse & Carriage horses .. beautiful
I was feeling pretty good, so we decided that we'd keep on trekking on, and would stop a few more towns South - as it was still pretty early in the day - had only just turned midday. Before we knew it, we'd driven 350km and were only about 50km out of Newcastle!! Needless to say, I felt pretty good about my driving effort - was exhausted, but was pretty happy that I'd gotten us, in one piece, to a few kms outside of our end destination. Az did a wonderful job as co-pilot. We found a nice little free camp on the riverside at Kuruah, so pulled up there and 'set up camp' for the night. We went for a bit of a walk and found a bottle shop - I needed a drink! Now I understand why Az just needs to sit down with a beer when he's been driving all day - I have a whole new appreciation for his efforts thus far on the trip! And he too, has a new appreciation of a co-pilot.. not quite as easy as I make it look .. hehe.
We had dinner, sat outside and sipped our drinks and appreciated the scenery. Just as we were getting ready for bed, a Winnebago pulled up behind us and an English family got out and asked if it was ok to camp there - as there was a sign that said no camping (we hadn't even noticed this.. oops)... we all got on the same page with a story in case someone came round, but we didn't even make it to the morning. At about 9.30pm, we were awoken (yep, we were sound asleep already!! Oldies!) by a HUGE gust of wind... that shook the van like you wouldn't believe. We were parked on top of a steep hill to the river .. so were a little worried we might get blown 'overboard'. As we were considering what to do, we heard the Winnebago speed off.... guess they were thinking the same thing.
So, at 9.30pm, and still in our PJs, we made the decision to move camp, and as there was nowhere close by to stop, we ended up driving another 15km to a truck stop on the side of the highway. While we were out of the wind, we were now listening to trucks stopping just behind our van for the rest of the night - they would stop for 10 minutes, motors running and then drive on... needless to say, we were more tired when we woke up, than when we went to bed. After a lazy morning, we made our way to Newcastle - with no idea where we were going to stay the night.
We ended up parking the van outside Aaron's Godparent's house and did a drive round town, stopping at each caravan park in and around Newcastle... with no real luck. If they had a spot, it would be nearly $400 a week, due to the peak period we are in.. bugger. The drive into Newcastle with the van was nail biting to say the least.. but Az took me the long way round, so wasn't too bad. Even driving without the van through town was stressful enough! Understandably, Az just wanted to jump into the driver's seat, as he knew exactly where to go, and was getting frustrated at having to give directions for every turn. We made it through the day though and even got to catch up with one of Az's friends that he grew up with - having lunch at the Honeysuckle Hotel - which was a beautiful converted woolshed.. we were drooling at the fit out.. so nice!
Sandra and Graeme (Godparents) were gracious enough to allow us to stay in the van out the front of their house until Sunday, when we were able to get into a caravan park at Belmont, just a few kms from their house. So we are now settled into Spinnakers Leisure Park, where we'll be for the next month - maybe longer depending on where I can find a job. It has a little gym, 2 pools and is a short walk to the shops and only across the way to Lake Macquarie. It's quite a nice spot really - we're right up the back of the caravan park, overlooking bushland - so quite private and we have our own amenities - which is just a 10m walk.. perfect!
We had a few days where we were feeling quite beaten - nothing was going right, everything seemed to be going against us, no matter what we did - making us question our journey. We wondered if these things were telling us to turn around and go back.. but we've decided to keep at it, and take one day at a time. I'll be starting to do some markets in the coming weeks, and hopefully work on Milkk Money a little more. I'll have a job in no time, and in about 4-6 weeks we're hoping Az will be able to start the recovery towards being back on the tools - as you can imagine, he's chomping at the bit to get back to work, but is focused on a solid recovery.
Today I went for my first surf in Newcastle - I was quite nervous, as I was surfing without Az and at a new spot - I usually get quite nervous even with Az when I surf a new spot. But managed to get a few waves without any board breakages or beatings :) Am now looking forward to another surf very soon.. and at least we have a pool to get wet in anytime.
So if anyone is coming to Newcastle in the next few months, make sure you let us know, would love to catch up :)
Our new spot for the next few months .. just lovely